Seventeen student-athletes have filed a class action Title IX lawsuit against San Diego State University.
A federal judge is currently considering a motion to dismiss, but two of the women involved in the lawsuit think they have a strong case showing that SDSU has not provided equal opportunity to its female student-athletes.
“Now that I am involved, I see an even greater purpose,” Olivia Petrine, a third-year student at SDSU told the local Fox affiliate. “This case is the first of its kind and I hope that other schools around the country can notice this and can be inspired to look into their title IX issues at their schools too.”
Petrine enrolled at SDSU in 2020 as a member of the women's rowing team. Three months after she enrolled, the school cut the team.
“The reason why is they claim there are too many women athletes at SDSU,” Petrine said. “Which is really hard to hear, especially with title IX because title IX helps provide equal opportunity.”
According to the lawsuit, in the two academic years from 2019 to 2021, SDSU's female student-athletes received $1.2 million less in athletic financial aid than their male counterparts despite the fact that females made up more than 57 percent of all SDSU athletes during that time.
“Female athletes don’t receive the same kind of treatment as male athletes,” said Kaitlin Heri, an SDSU student who won the Mountain West Conference title in the pole vault last spring. She says when she heard about the lawsuit, she didn’t hesitate to jump in, even though she says her head coach said it would be a distraction to the team – which prompted a retaliation allegation to be added to the lawsuit.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘why are you doing this” Heri said. “If we don’t do this, if nobody does anything, then nothing is going to change.”
“SDSU’s funding level for women’s scholarships, and its female athletic participation, is among the highest for Mountain West schools and in California and the NCAA," the school said in a statement regarding the matter. "SDSU awards almost all possible scholarships permitted under NCAA rules for both its men’s and women’s teams… SDSU is proud of its record of promoting female athletic opportunities.”
Petrine doesn't agree.
“I think part of it should be the monetary value,” Petrine said. “But I think additionally, it needs to be a change because you can give us the 1.2 million dollars and agree that this is what you get, but you need to make that change every year going forward that you’re going to treat everybody equally. That even goes with everything that is easy to do, like publicity.”